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By: olaw, Oliver Law
Jul 09 2019 9:22am
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Hello!

Welcome to another Becoming A Modern Man!  In this article, I am taking a look at Hogaak Vine which is a deck that has been very difficult to escape in recent times.  Since Modern Horizons release this deck quickly established itself as the best things to be doing in the format and is now threatening to takeover the format.

DECK TECH

Here is the decklist I am currently working with:

 

Creatures

Carrion Feeder
Carrion Feeder
A powerful new sacrifice outlet reprinted into Modern by Modern Horizons.  Carrion Feeder fits really beautifully in this deck for various reasons.  Firstly, Carrion Feeder is a threat in itself which makes it much better than Viscera Seer, which was the best one-drop sacrifice outlet prior to Carrion Feeder coming into the format.  Carrion Feeder can grow pretty large and there are lot of free sacrifices in the deck, with Bloodghast and Gravecrawler where you can just net extra +1/+1 counters on Carrion Feeder.  Secondly, Feeder is a Zombie which means it interacts really nicely with Gravecrawler allowing you to sacrifice and recast Gravecrawler in one simple package.  Sacrificing and recasting Gravecrawler is an easy way to trigger Vengevines in the yard.

Stitcher's Supplier
Stitcher's Supplier

Stitcher's Supplier is one of the best tools in the deck for fueling its graveyard shenanigans.  Casting Supplier into sacrificing it next turn to Carrion Feeder or Altar of Dementia is a great way to get a lot of cards into your graveyard very quickly.  One of the great enablers of the deck and a card I am always happy to see in my opening hand.

Gravecrawler
Gravecrawler
As mentioned above, Gravecrawler can be cast from the graveyard if you have another Zombie in play.  Carrion Feeder, other copies of Gravecrawler and Bridge from Below all fit those requirements so it's fairly easy to recast Gravecrawler multiple times per time.  As you cast Gravecrawler from the graveyard it can trigger Vengevine.  It can also be repeated sacrifice fodder for Carrion Feeder to grow or Altar of Dementia only limited by the amount of mana you have.

Insolent Neonate
Insolent Neonate
Neonate can't but used to cast Hogaak but rounds out our suite of 1 drops.  It works really nicely with Bridge from Below as the discard happens before the sacrifice so you instantly net yourself a 2/2 Zombie token.  Neonate generally is a good way to pitch cards you want in the graveyard and to dig for more gas.  It's also a nice setup for Vengevine or a way to get Vengevine into play with the other one-drops.

Bloodghast
Bloodghast
Dredge staple and general graveyard all-star Bloodghast rounds out the suite of cheap creatures in the deck.  Bloodghast can be recurred from the graveyard whenever you play a land and returns with haste when the opponent is on 10 or less life.  This makes Bloodghast a powerful aggressive tool and also a creature that can be sacrificed for value and return at very little cost.  Further it's another way to get a free untapped black creature onto the battlefield for the purpose of casting Hogaak.

Vengevine
Vengevine
The Hogaak Vine deck was originally a Vengevine/Bridge from Below deck called Bridgevine.  Hogaak, Carrion Feeder and Altar of Dementia have pushed the deck to new heights but the original MVP is still in the team.  The deck is filled with one-drops which means casting two creature spells in a turn is not too tricky for the deck.  Add in the fact that Gravecrawler and Hogaak are cast from the graveyard it's not to tricky to release Vengevine from the graveyard for 4 hasty points of damage.

Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis
Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis

Hogaak is the new card that sent this deck into overdrive.  A 8/8 trampler that can be cast for 0-mana, well actually can only be cast for 0-mana, turns out to be all too easy to cast in this setup.  Hogaak is insane as it is a huge threat and also a combo piece when combined with Bridge from Below and Altar of Dementia, allowing you to mill yourself for 8 cards at a time and eventually mill out your opponent netting Zombies to recast Hogaak.

An important thing to note is that you need two untapped black or green creatures in play to cast Hogaak.  Bridge from Below is very accommodating in providing black 2/2 zombie tokens for this purpose but when you don't have Bridge you have to be a bit more considered.  Sometimes you are better off casting Hogaak than attacking with your creatures.  Missing opportunities to cast Hogaak is fairly easy to do by throwing in an unnecessary attack or misevaluating your board position.  Make sure to keep in mind when Hogaak is going to be castable and whether you need to hold back creatures to cast it.

Spells

Faithless Looting
Faithless Looting
What would a degenerate graveyard deck be without Faithless Looting?  Probably considerably less consistent for a start.  Looting allows us to dig deeper into our deck and dump cards like Vengevine and Bridge from Below into the graveyard where we want them.

Artifacts

Altar of Dementia
Altar of Dementia
Altar is another reprint that makes its way to Modern via Modern Horizons.  Altar felt a bit clunky the first few times I played the deck as I didn't full grasp the power of the card in the deck.  Altar allows you to fill your graveyard but also can fairly quickly turn into a win condition with Bridge from Below and Hogaak.  Sacrificing Hogaak can let you self-mill for 8 cards which digs pretty deep.  Initially you are hoping to hit more copies of Bridge from Below and the 8 cards added to the graveyard should help fuel recasting Hogaak (though be sure you have extra untapped creatures black or green creatures if you don't have Bridges in the graveyard).  With two or more Bridges in the graveyard you easily net enough creatures to recast Hogaak while adding a lot of additional power to the board with each iteration.  Once you have milled yourself a bunch and put a bunch of tokens onto the battlefield you can start aiming Altar at your opponent and it is surprisingly easy to mill out an opponent who has as many as 50+ cards this way.

This combo can easily be put together by Turn 3 and can probably be done on Turn 2 with a nut draw. 

Enchantments

Bridge from Below
Bridge from Below
Bridge is one of the key parts of the deck.  Hogaak Bridge is probably a more appropriate name for the deck but I guess Bridge is more commonly used to refer to Ensnaring BridgeBridge from Below pairs beautifully with Hogaak as it allows you to generate 2/2 Zombies every time a creature goes into your graveyard.  The tokens help cast Hogaak and allow you net advantages from the various sacrifice outlets in the deck.  Most impressively, once you have two copies of Bridge from Below in the graveyard you can repeatedly sacrifice Hogaak and recast it using the Zombie tokens generated plus cards from the graveyard which can easily turn into a win condition when combined with Altar of Dementia.

Leyline of the Void
Leyline of the Void
There are a few flex slots in the deck.  The main deck Leyline is a hedge against the mirror match and any other decks that are hurt by it, which are quite a few in the format.

Lands

There isn't really anything exciting about the manabase.  The deck doesn't need a lot of mana to function, usually two to three lands will be sufficient for what the deck wants to do.  The deck runs a high number of fetchlands for the purpose of activating Bloodghast and filling the graveyard to cast Hogaak.  They also allow you to access the white splash (or such splash as you may choose) in the deck.

SIDEBOARD

Given that the deck is very linear and doesn't care much about what the opponent is doing the main purpose of the sideboard is to stop opponents interfering with our gameplan.

WispmareSilent GravestoneShenanigans

  • Wispmare is some interesting tech.  It can destroy Leyline of the Void and Rest in Peace while not being a spell so it cannot be countered by Force of Negation.  Also, due to Evoke it can trigger Bridge from Below if it happens to be in the graveyard.
  • Wear/Tear is artifact and enchantment destruction which can be a wise choice when we don't know what type of hate our opponent will be bringing in after sideboarding.
  • Shenanigans is one of the new artifact hate card from Modern Horizons.  It can be dredged back to hand if it happens to hit the graveyard and then can be used to repeatedly destroy artifacts.  Very powerful against artifact based decks.
  • Leyline of the Void is a great card for the mirror match and also works against Izzet Phoenix, Thopter Sword combo and various other decks in the format.
  • Silent Gravestone provides protection from Surgical Extraction, Scavenging Ooze and any other targeted graveyard hate.  So far I haven't found this quite as useful as our other anti-graveyard hate cards.
  • Lightning Axe, Darkblast and Fatal Push are removal spells for when we are forced to interact with our opponent's problematic creatures.

GAMEPLAY

Until you know exactly what is going on with all the moving parts looking at a Hogaak Vine decklist probably doesn't tell you the whole story.  It's not necessarily easy to see how all the cards interact and how busted it can be.  As such I highly recommend you see the deck in action.  Here are my videos of me learning the ropes with the deck:


Our first matchup is against Slivers.  Slivers gained quite a bit from Modern Horizons but seems to have struggled to put up results.  The deck is a bit dangerous to Hogaak Vine as our lack of removal gives them carte blanche to build their threats.


Our second matchup is against Ad NauseamAd Nauseam combo is a deck that I haven't seen in some time so it was interesting to play against it here.  As it turns out, although it took me some time to learn, it's actually pretty badly positioned against Hogaak Vine.  Not only does Hogaak offer a pretty speedy clock but Altar of Dementia is particularly effective against their deck as you can mill out their win condition, usually Lightning Storm, or mill enough lands out of their deck that they can't combo kill you with Lightning Storm.


Our third matchup is against Humans.  I think generally Hogaak Vine should be favoured in this matchup as it can amass a much bigger board presence at a speed much faster than Humans.  However, Humans decks have lots of disruption options and can protect a Leyline of the Void from enchantment removal with Meddling Mage while build its own board presence.


Our fourth matchup is against Tron.  This matchup seems to be pretty favourable and seems to have pushed Tron down in the metagame.  Tron has graveyard hate options but a Relic of Progenitus is often not good enough on its own.  Generally your clock should be able to outstrip Tron's.  Walking Ballista can be problematic as a way of them exiling your Bridge from Belows and killing off the team but overall this seems like a positive matchup for Hogaak Vine.


Our fifth and final matchup is against Storm.  This matchup is quite interesting.  We don't have a lot of ways to interact with them but a very fast clock and Leyline of the Void from the sideboard can make their life very difficult when it comes to winning.

BAN TALK

The next banned and restricted announcement is on 8 July, which should be very shortly after this article is released.  There is a lot of ban talk surrounding the Hogaak Vine deck which I feel is justified.  It has put up some insane results since arriving on the scene and is distorting the metagame to increasing amounts of main deck graveyard hate.  The deck's best hands easily kill on Turn 3 and the power of the deck invalidates a lot of decks.  The question is what card or cards should be banned to hamper the deck.

I don't think this is an easy question to answer as the deck works on a lot of different axis.

Bridge from Below
I'd say Bridge from Below is probably the most degenerate part of the deck.  Without Bridge from Below the mill strategy with Altar of Dementia does not function in the degenerate way it does currently and you cannot net nearly as much of an advantage off Hogaak. 

Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis
Hogaak is another potential target for the banhammer as even without Bridge from Below it's very possible to cast Hogaak on Turn 2.  The fact that Hogaak can't be hit by the most commonly used removal spells prior to Modern Horizons, Fatal Push and Lightning Bolt, and is such a heavy hitter than arrives so early on the battlefield is problematic.  WOTC have been understandably hesitant to ban new cards in a format in the past (see Deathrite Shaman when Jund was dominating Modern) which makes me think that Hogaak is more likely to get a pass.

Altar of Dementia
Altar of Dementia seems like a poor target to me.  I don't think the card is busted on its own and it's the combination of Hogaak and Bridge from Below that make the card absurd.  Otherwise, it's a two-mana artifact that needs to be leveraged by sacrificing creatures, which is not without cost.  For my money, Altar is the least degenerate of the triumvirate of this deck and is sufficiently hurt by the ban of either of the other two cards that it can stay legal.

The other option is to ban enablers like Faithless Looting, which feels like it has been in the ban discussion for a long time now.  This would be a much less targeted ban and one that would have major implications for the future of Modern generally.  I wrote a partial defence of Faithless Looting in a previous article prior to the release of War of the Spark.  My main concern is that it will hurt long-term diversity but with degenerate graveyard decks repeatedly causing problems in the format perhaps it's time for stronger action to be taken to even out the format.

It's difficult to say exactly what is going to happen and with the London mulligan rule arriving in Modern, another meaningful change to the format, I wouldn't be too surprised to see WOTC hold fire.

CONCLUSIONS

Hogaak Vine is a deck that is insanely powerful and has distorted the format quite meaningfully.  The deck isn't overly easy to pick up and play as there are a lot of interactions and plays that are not immediately obvious.  Play sequencing is important to make the most of your graveyard and playing the deck optimally certainly takes a lot of practice.  Assessing opening hands can also be quite difficult as unassuming hands can suddenly become degenerate.  That said I think the deck is a lot of fun to play with.

It's possible the deck will not be playable for much longer so it's certainly not a deck that you want to be investing in right now.  That said there haven't been a lot of major Modern events and WOTC have practiced a wait-and-see approach in the past.  However, Modern feels like it is in a pretty bad way with Hogaak running around and I wouldn't be surprised to see something from the deck banned.  Bridge from Below seems like the best candidate from my perspective.

This is a slightly awkwardly timed article as if Hogaak Vine stays in Modern then hopefully this provides a solid guide to the deck, otherwise I guess it will serve as an epitaph to the most broken deck we have seen since Eldrazi Winter.

Thanks for reading,

Oliver Law (olaw on MTGO)